CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Oklahoma City Thunder’s (6-4) sixth straight win was ugly and at times downright unwatchable. With no Russell Westbrook, who sat tonight due to an ankle sprain, the Thunder needed a big game from Dennis Schröder.
The German-born point guard delivered.
Scoring a season-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting, Schröder provided the scoring punch necessary in a sloppy 95-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (1-10). 16 of those points came in the second half. Schröder helped Oklahoma City close the game on an 11-2 run.
“I was just aggressive,” Schröder said in the locker room. “They overplayed me every time. I just went out and tried to put pressure on the rim and I was able to score the basketball.”
While the Cavaliers made things interesting in an early-fourth quarter run, Oklahoma City took control of the game early in the third quarter. A 17-0 run from the end of the second helped balloon the Thunder’s lead to 16. Schröder had a lot to do with the run.
“It was big time,” Schröder said if the 17-0 run. “We finished the third quarter out great. The third quarter was kind of [makes a meh gesture]. But I’m glad we won the game and finished that one.”
Despite having his finger prints all over the win, Schröder did have an overall odd stat line.
It was the first time since March 12, 2016 that Schröder didn’t register an assist. Granted the Thunder did not shoot well at all — 42 percent from the field and 26 percent from three — so assists were not abundant. In fact, Oklahoma City finished with 10 assists as a team.
It was the first time since December 29, 2016 the Thunder had 10 assists or less — a 114-80 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies — and their first victory with 10 or less assists (nine) since October 30, 2013 in a 101-98 win over the Utah Jazz.
With shots not falling, the Thunder leaned on their defense to carry them. Oklahoma City leads the league in steals at nearly 12 a game. Tonight they finished with 13 steals, forcing 19 Cleveland turnovers and scored 21 points off of them. Oklahoma City also had a season-high nine blocks with Nerlens Noel leading the way with four.
“We’re going to be a team that is going to miss shots,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “It’s just the way that it is. I give our guys credit, we didn’t shoot the ball well from the three point line, but we stayed with it. We battled defensively, we contested shots. We played a good defensive game.”
Paul George finished with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting but balanced his game with seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. In a game where Oklahoma City shot 7-of-27 from three, George didn’t force the issue from deep. He finished 1-of-3 from the three point line.
Steven Adams had nine points and 13 rebounds (five offensive).
The Thunder’s six-game winning streak is second in the league behind the Golden State Warriors who have won eight straight.
Tomorrow night Oklahoma City returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena to take on the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back.